Saturday, April 20, 2013

Calamari rings in a winner

Most people have their first encounter with squid as fried rings of calamari. Not me. My friend Alan took to an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia that had recently been the site of a mob hit. He pointed out the blood stains between the floor tiles. He ordered us a couple of dishes and my spaghetti had a rich tomato sauce with a bunch of white rings. I took a bite; "What is this incredibly delicious round pasta?" I asked. He smiled and said, "Squid." I've been in love with it ever since.

I'd still rather have it in a sauce than fried. Below is a recipe I've made several times in the past few months, most recently for company last night. If you can't find fresh baby squid, the kind that is frozen whole is a good substitute. It's not hard to cut up, but you should lop off the beaks and any stray cartilage you find as you do. If you want to know why I'm not buying rings-only calamari anymore, take a look at this transcript from NPR's "This American Life."

Linguine with Calamari and Garlic 
adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit, December 1996
Serves 2

1/2 pound linguine
4 anchovies, from 2-ounce tin; anchovies crushed, oil reserved
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 pound cleaned calamari (squid), thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon capers
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat reserved oil from anchovies in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook about a minute. Add calamari and toss just until opaque, about 1 minute. Add crushed red pepper, anchovies and capers and stir 1 minute. Add white wine; boil until sauce is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Mix in basil.
Add pasta to mixture in skillet. Toss until heated through and sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if pasta seems dry, about 2 minutes. Divide pasta and calamari between 2 plates and serve.

Need to use up the extra anchovies? Here's an excellent side dish for this meal.

Seared Broccoli with Anchovy Vinaigrette
Recipe adapted from Maria Hines, Agrodolce, Seattle, WA
Serves 4

Anchovy Vinaigrette:
4 oil-packed anchovies
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
⅓ cup canola oil
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large bunch of broccoli, trimmed into small florets
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
⅛ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the anchovy vinaigrette: In a blender, purée the anchovies, vinegar and garlic together on high speed until smooth. Reduce the blender speed to medium and slowly pour in the canola oil, blending until the vinaigrette is emulsified and thick. Season with the pepper.
Make the broccoli: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and broccoli florets and season with ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the florets are caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon juice and season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Transfer the broccoli to a serving platter and drizzle with the anchovy vinaigrette. Serve warm.

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